Whose Economy?

In today’s USA Today Susan Page takes a look at how the economy might factor into this year’s presidential election. Page does a fine job of describing how the Bush and Kerry camps each highlight different statistics as evidence that the “mixed bag” economy plays in their own favor. “By Kerry’s ‘misery index,’ the economy is the worst it has been for any president running for re-election since Carter,” Page writes, while “by the old-style ‘misery index’ [favored by the Bush camp] the economy is the best it has been for any president running for re-election since then.” (Emphasis ours.)

But, as a sharp Campaign Desk reader points out, Page makes no attempt to look at the swing states specifically and how residents of such states — like Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, to name three of seventeen or so so-called battlegrounds — are faring economically. By Campaign Desk’s measure, any piece about how the economy might impact Bush v. Kerry should take the battleground states — some of which have seen steep job losses — into consideration in some way or another.

Perhaps Page’s focus was broader, and her piece meant to be a bigger-picture look at how the economy’s health, which she describes as “usually the difference between winning and losing” the White House, is all in the eye of the beholder.

But Page does mention in passing that the men-and-women-on-the-street quoted in her piece were participants “in one of two focus groups that USA Today convened in suburban St. Louis this month to discuss the economy.” There must be some reason the newspaper held its focus groups in Missouri —even if Paige doesn’t mention the state’s swing status.

Liz Cox Barrett

Has America ever needed a media watchdog more than now? Help us by joining CJR today.

Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.